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Wildcats seeing red with red zone 'D'

You watch Kentucky battle the way the Wildcats have this season, especially in the second half of games, and it’s obvious how explosive they are on offense, and you think for a minute, “Maybe they’ll really shake things up and win the East this season.”

The schedule sort of favors them.

Their home game with Georgia this Saturday is probably an elimination game. Then comes a trip to Mississippi State the following weekend, and all that’s left from there are games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

Joker Phillips has a team that can score with anybody. The Wildcats are second in the SEC in scoring offense and third in total offense. They’re averaging 35.3 points per game and have the most versatile offensive weapon in the league in Randall Cobb.

So, again, you sit back and think that it’s possible, especially in a season when everything in the East is so wide open.

But then you look at the defensive numbers, more specifically Kentucky’s red zone defensive numbers, and they’ve been nothing short of a horror show.

The Wildcats are 119th nationally (out of 120 teams) in red zone defense. They’ve allowed 25 drives inside their 20-yard line this season, and teams have come away with points 24 times. That includes 19 touchdowns.

So in other words, when a team has the ball inside the Kentucky 20-yard line, it’s going to score a touchdown nearly 80 percent of the time.

You throw in the fact that Kentucky is 11th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 176 yards per game, and has yielded an SEC-high 17 rushing touchdowns, and those visions of the Wildcats possibly winning the East sort of fade into oblivion.

They have the offense to do it, but it’s difficult to see them making it through this final stretch unless they tighten up considerably on the defensive side.